Last year during spring break we spread mulch. We began at our house and then went to the home of Tim's sister and brother-in-law. Bill noticed that we needed something in the bare corner by our garage where we pulled out a dead bush. He pulled out a couple of plants from his flower bed and urged us to plant them in the bare space. He said it would grow without much attention. So we took the long blades home and stuck them in the ground.
I didn't think about them much. The green seemed to even out the landscaping in front of the house, yet it wasn't necessarily a plant I would have bought to put there. But what do I know? I've never been able to grow anything. Every plant I've ever received as a gift died. Some folks have green thumbs; mine is the thumb of doom.
Those plantings took root, grew, spread out a bit. And then a couple of weeks ago they began putting forth blooms. Irises! Here I thought they were just some boring old space fillers, and come to find out these blooming things are my favorite childhood flower.
I'm not sure what it is about the Iris that captivated me as a young girl. Perhaps it seemed elegant and stately. Perhaps it was the only real flower that grew in abundance around my childhood neighborhood. Maybe I loved them simply because looking at their languid petals helped my heart find beauty in a world where I felt sad so much of the time.
I've thought much about this spring-time surprise. A couple of months ago I didn't really care one way or the other about them. They just seemed to keep growing and multiplying while I wasn't looking. It never occurred to me that inside the long stemmed blades there was hidden beauty waiting to be revealed in the warmth of a new season.
The Holy Spirit pricks my understanding as I mull over my mistaken apathy.
There are ordinary parts of my spiritual life that I don't pay much attention to. I plant them in my unfolding days as a way to keep me from losing my way, especially in these last few months (years) that have felt particularly barren. Inside I have felt like a wasteland, vast and expansive, yearning to be watered by a fresh filling of God's Spirit. Thirsty and parched I plant the Word in my life--scripture taped to the bathroom mirror, telling the stories of Jesus to little ones, praying in the car as I take the big boys to school, the diversion of playing the "I praise God game" with the smallest boy as we travel on to the next place, praying the familiar words of blessing over my sons as I tuck them in bed at night. I wonder at what this season is supposed to be forming in me, what good thing God can be doing through emptiness that feels so pervasive. In my wondering I watch over the Word planted. I can get pretty apathetic about it too.
The Holy Spirit asks me to look at my life and the Holy Plantings as if they were blades of Iris waiting for spring.
Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19).